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Thursday, 30 July 2015


My oh my! It sure has been  while since I have last written here! It was not for a lack of flying, though...
I've been very busy with a lot of things (like holliday, and such ;) )
Meanwhile, I have logged 9 more hours, and 10 landings. Yes, I have started solo season :) In the chart off to the right, you can see where I've been so far. That is really starting to look like something, now!
I have been to Leer (Germany) mid-april, and Groningen Eelde en of May, as well as early June. In between was a holliday period for both my instructor and myself. That meant a pauze of 1 1/2 month, which is quite a lot, I can tell you.

Flying to Leer was mostly about navigation. And about flying to an unfamiliar field, with German RT. I froze on my RT last time in Germany, so that had to be set straight. To make the return trip to Lelystad a little more exiting, we planned through the Groningen CTR to a stop at Drachten (EHDR)

The runway at Leer is markedly narrower than what I'm used to, and there was about 10 kn wind, exactl perpendicular to the runway. Trees on the upwind side for half the length of the runway also did not make things easier. When I contacted Leer Information, I got a "direct base 08", which meant following the river Ems, and make a 90 degree left turn directly to the runway. I was a little bit high and fat for that, but initially, I thought I could bleed off both speed and altitud before the threshold. But man, does that Aquila glide!... So I elected to go around, and take the full circuit to get prepared and stabelised on the approach. That worked bettter :) A "narrow" (20 m is stil twice the wingspan, but 2/3 of what I am accustomed to) runway looks even narrower in crosswind conditions!
Once landed, the harbourmaster swiftly comes outside to help us to some fuel (which makes the landing free of charge, by the way). And after a few liters in each wing: Shnitzel!
When in Germany... ;)

The flight back to Lelystad went via the Groningen CTR to Drachten. I notced that I had my VFR standard phraseology reasonably well at the tip of my tongue, but the whole crossing a control zone bit had faded away somewhat already. It was a quiet day in the Groningen CTR, so that was no problem, but a point for improvement there, anyway!
The approach to Drachten is slightly non-standard. There are a lot of built-up areas to avoid, and Drachten itself was one of them. That meant a near threshold baseleg, on a shorter and narrower runway. Starting the descend early is the tric here, but turning final, you don't want to be too low. In general, it is not a good idea to make turns at low altitude. So not only descend early, but also turn shallow. To make it all work, you then also need to fly slowly... So accurate speed control (with pitch!), and descend path cotrol (with throttle!) is crucial to make the Drachten approach a successful one.
It ended up not to be a problem at all, but that can only be said because of the above mental preparation for this approach. Lesson learned: always carefully study your approach plates. Especially when going in to an unfamiliar field.
Added bonus of the Drachten runway: good grip because of the rubber on the strip. Every now and then, dragraces are held on this strip, so it's a good idea to call to the field (before you flythere) to find out if it even is actually open :)

So by now it is getting to that point where I get to do my very first solo cross country. I had prepared a flight to Ameland, plus an alternative flight with instructor to Groningen (Eelde), followed by a visit to Oostwold. Dat was all to take place on the 31st of May. As my luck dictates, it was crappy weather that day. Strong winds from the South-West (15 to 20 from 240), a total grey overcast, and few showers during the day. Ceiling was still at some 3500ft in the morning, but would decrease to some 1500 ft in the afternoon, towards the end of my block reservation. The wind and rain kept me from doing my flight to Ameland, because it has a grass runway 27, so that's a touch too much risk of too strong crosswind at a slippery grass runway. So we went for the instructor version EHLE-EHGG-EHOW-EHLE, because it was flyable weather anyway.
So, this was my first towered airport destination. Going there, we did the entire book of tricks, and of course all the necessary radio calls. My landing was below standard. Not enough rudder to "kick straight" the "hanging into the wind". And the runway is about 5 times the minimum required length, so it took a while before I got to the first available exit on the right. That could have gnoe a touch quicker :). OK, noteerde for next time.
Arriving at K-Apron, we were welcomed by a genuine marshaller. Another first for me!

Paying the landing fee was a something different too. There had been a fire in the server room, and not all computer systems had been restored to full duty yet. I had to fill in my name and address, and I would get the bill at home. OK, let's wait and see how much this will be (inclusief a handling fee, and ATC charge...)

We quickly proceded on to Oostwold. This is a relatively young airfield, off to the North-East of Groningen, direction Delfzijl. Departure from Groningen-Eelde Airport is according to controled-field procedures: listen out on the ATIS frequency, contact Eelde Delivery for a start-up clearance, then switch to Tower for taxi instructions, and finally take-off clearance. I has requested a departure route to the North-West, to follow a route "over the North" of Groningen city to Oostwold. At Oostwold, my landing was another one that left enough opportunities for improvement. Rudder, again! I'm not very much in shape, today.
Talking about radio usage ... Oostwold is the exact opposite of Groningen. No procedural phraseology, not even English, ..., no, a simpele Dutch "go right ahead" is your landing or take off clearance :D and in a true Northern accent too :) Hahaha!

The week after this flight, I had reserved another big block. The big difference there: it was beatiful flying weather, this time! Only thing was the wind. There was a lot of it. Some 15 to 20 knots from direction 240 to 250. That was a bit too much for going to Ameland just yet. So I got to fly the same route as the week before, only this time: solo! So this would be my first (and second, and third) solo cross country flight, my first solo towered airport, and my "solo triangle" (two away airfields, and a trip total > 150 nm), all at once! :) And with this day of flying, I would also double my solo hours from three to six ;)
This time, I practiced some steep turns and emergency landings, and some slips to get more of a feeling for the air-plane's reaction to foot-input (rudder). This time, I had to do without the marshaller at Groningen. But I also did not have to pay landing fees, yet. "You already have an account, here." "Oh?". "You are in the system already. We'll send the bill automatically". When I got home, I found the bill for the previous week's landing: €24.88! Just as much as Lelystad charges for a cross country landing. I had expected Groningen to be more expensive than Lelystad, being a regional towered airport and all. Or actually that Lelystad would be less expensive, but that is a whole other discussion.
This time, I filed, and got cleared, a Uniform Departure: back to Assen, and then turn south of Assen back to the North-East, for Oostwold. The by now familiar voice of Rico at Oostwold Radio made me smile again :) As I arrived at the tower to pay the landing, I got a cup of coffee, and a package with some aluminium plates destined for Lelystad. I was going that way anyway.
After a sandwich on the terrace, I headed back "home" to Lelystad. Because this was a flight without flightplan, and I still had enough time left on my plane reservation, I decided to go back the scenic route, and do some excersizes along the way too. Nice and relaxed, this is the true joy of flying!
Back in the Lelystad area, it was very busy at Lelystad radio. Weekend, good flying weather, the middle of the afternoon, ..., all the ingredients are there. So I keep a sharp lookout for traffic when approaching the airport. I hear a radio call I had not heard before: a straight in announcement. It was the PBY Catalina, coming back from a "Splash and Dash".  She's too big to follow the standard circuit, so she gets to fly straight in. We were going to be on final pretty much at the same time, so I had to monitor that situation closely. I ended up on final with about 1 minute head start, so I went for it. I estimated I could vacate the runway just in time, and that was the case. I reported "runway vacated" with the Catalina on short final.

So now it is all starting to look like the real deal. I have 6 solo hours, so I'll need to add at least 9 more of those. Further more, we are going to polish my short- and soft field techniques, steep turns, emergency procedures, stalls in turns, ..., enough to do with dual hours too. But this tastes like more! Check back regularly for updates :)

Folder with KML files of my flights

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